tv USC Unruh Discussion on Race Diversity and Politics CSPAN April 16, 2019 2:32pm-3:34pm EDT
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next, a discussion about to race, diversity, and politics with a former los angeles mayor and a political consultant mike madrid. they spoke recently at an event at the university of southern california for about one hour and 45 minutes. >> thank you all for coming. appreciate the series that has been set up here by usc. i do have a couple of announcements. this thursday, april four, former secretary of state john kerry will present a keynote address for climate ford, navigating the policy for climate change. will share his experience negotiating the paris agreement on climate change as well as the progress.
the event is wait-listed, so arrive early to guarantee a seat. tonight's event is being broadcast on facebook live. c-span is carrying it with i am delighted that all of you are here and will be joining us for the conversation with a good friend of mine, and somebody i've come to work with in various capacities as both a friend, supporter, and sometimes adversary and all the best ways, so we will talk about that. >> mostly adversaries. [laughter] >> we will talk about that a little bit. the idea of bringing mayor villaraigosa tonight was to discuss race in the white house and the emerging field that is coming together. both here and across the country, i want to talk about you and your background before
we jump into that, if that's ok. mayor villaraigosa: it's great i taught here to be here at usc lectured here right after lost first bears race 2001 again. it's great to be here at usc again. i taught here, lectured here right after i lost the first mayor's race in 2001. after i finished my two terms as mayor, i worked here again. my daughter was here. i'm a big fan of usc. mr. madrid: with that, mr. villaraigosa served two terms as mayor in los angeles from 2005 to 2013. some rather challenging years in terms of the recession and the growth issues, we will be talking about that. mr. villaraigosa started his career as a community organizer, essentially, someone who as a young man, during his high school years, was involved in social justice issues. we have talked numerous times about everything from marching with farmworkers to social
justice issues here in the city of los angeles. you worked with the los angeles teachers union, served as the president of the southern california chapter of the civil liberties union. your fights have always been on behalf of working men and women, people of color, those who are not represented, the voices that have too often times been marginalized, and i think a lot of this is particularly relevant in the course of what is happening in our current political environment. you have also served as a member of the los angeles city council prior to that, member of the california state assembly. you became the second latino speaker in history at the capital at that time, we look at you and your identity as sort of like the first latino speaker. some of the issues you are unabashedly championing, you were a progressive, when
progressive was a bad word, and i can recall regularly how scared sacramento and a lot of folks in town were. what it meant to have a latino who was setting the left flank of the national, political discourse on a number of issues you championed. and most recently, you ran for governor of california in 2018. mr. villaraigosa: i was second, not first. bustamante was the first speaker. i started at 15-years-old with helping to organize the black student union, i was a football player, not a very good one. and some of the football players were also involved in student
politics, and we started the black student union. a couple months later, i helped found the united mexican-american students, had ts.kouts, boycot it was the 1960's, and there was a lot of energy around this notion that we needed to open up our country. in my case, have a real voice here in los angeles. and, was the labor leader after that, a community organizer and a labor leader, for 25 years before i got elected. when people talked about how i rose so quickly to the speakership two years after getting elected, i tell people it's because i have been around. i had been an organizer for most of my life, not just for one or two years. a good part of my life. then, i didn't actually get elected until i was close to 40.
you are right, it is said that i was a progressive before the word became popular. at the time, people described themselves as liberals. many of us described ourselves as progressives, championing issues like assault weapons in the 90's, criminal justice systems that were broken, disproportionate, the impact on blacks, latinos, poor people. the prison building environment we were in, under the health -- offering the largest expansion of health care since medi-cal at that time, 750,000 kids got health care, in a large school bond in u.s. history. what was important about it is that it was the first time we put money in urban schools.
we used to pass bonds and the money would go to the whole states, and would go to the rural places, and people voted vote for that. i changed that. mr. madrid: how was it possible that you are the moderate in a race for governor given this really progressive policy position to be on? you are the forefront of these issues. those were not particularly politically popular issues in california. mr. villaraigosa: no question about it. i think because we put people, we love labeling people and putting them in categories. while i am a progressive, i am also practical. i was mayor of los angeles in the worst recession. the economy was in tatters. i had to make a lot of tough calls including calls against friends. powerful unions, for example.
although i've come out of the labor movement, i was not just a community organizer, but a labor leader. we were going bankrupt, and i had to make tough decisions. because of those decisions, people put a label on that wasn't accurate, but sometimes that happens. mr. madrid: do you believe that as speaker specifically you were reviewed -- we are going to get to your tenure as mayor in just a bit. as speaker, you worked for the aclu, you marched with the united farm workers, pushed to expand health care by an additional 750,000 people, you champion issues like prison reform and law enforcement reform -- >> immigrant. food stamps for illegal immigrants because at that time, it was illegal.
nobody was talking about that. a latinod: was being speaker make it easier to champion those issues or difficult to champion those issues? mr. villaraigosa: i was never a latino speaker. i was a speaker for everyone. that is probably why i was identified nationally as somebody, i was a coalition builder. i started out with the black student union. i was always someone who understood that strength comes in building a broader base of support. i was proud to be mexican. i'm an american-mexican. i've always been proud of my heritage. i was involved in a lot of community organizing around the latino community, but i knew that it was important in a city as important and diverse as california, los angeles, that i needed to be a leader for everybody.
i knew there was a lot of fear and trepidation about being if not the first, someone who was breaking the glass ceiling. i understood that to alay some of those fears, they had to see me as someone that i was, someone was going to work on behalf of everyone in california. i. madrid: you said, and think someone who has watched your career the past 20 to 25 years, i understand completely what you are saying, you're not just a latino speaker. do you hear democrats talking about that this way now, especially in the light of this historically diverse field for presidential contenders? good friend of yours, senator harris, for example. mr. villaraigosa: one of the most fascinating things about her rollout -- she starts her
rollout at howard university, clearly saying, "this is something i am going to celebrate, not walk away from." she announces formally on the martin luther king holiday, this is not subtle imagery. we were notaigosa: subtle back then either. armor they did a column, i was the first that spoke in spanish and english. thei columnist for newspaper wrote, the state is changing. in fact, the press was not happy that i did it in english and spanish. they did not want to wait for the translation. they didn't want to wait for the questions that came from the spanish-speaking telecasters. you will see those press conferences, usually they will speak in english, with me, they spoke in spanish. i translated it and i spoke back in spanish, i was never afraid of who i was. but i was clear that we elect leaders in a diverse country
like this one, we want them to represent everyone of us. i was clear that that is what i was going to do, but i was never reticent to stand up for who i am. that is why i brought immigrants into the conversation in the 1990's when nobody was doing it. remember, this was right after proposition 187 that denied health care, even emergency health care to immigrants and a public school education. that is the environment i was operating on. it is a much different environment 25 years later. people are ahistorical about that. when i was speaker, there was concern even among the democrats that i focused on some of the issues that i did. sometimes i would joke -- what about me being speaker do you not understand? i got elected, and i believe this is how we grow our party and how we best serve the people of the state.
but i was never, ever reticent. when i ran in 1994, prop 187 was on the ballot, and i was opposed to it. we had done polling. mr. madrid: it was your first run for elected office. mr. villaraigosa: it was going to pass. three stakes, you -- three strikes, you're out was on the ballot. i was opposed to it, and we knew it was going to pass. i was against the death penalty. the majority of the people in the state were for it, i knew it. i articulated it in my campaign. and, i was the immediate past president of the aclu at a time that back then, when the aclu didn't have the kind of support it has today. mr. madrid: this is newt gingrich's america. mr. villaraigosa: it was a very different environment. i never was reticent about standing up for my values and what i believed in. so, fast-forward, you mentioned
senator harris. i think she was right in announcing her campaign at howard. that is where she went to college. he said, there was a double entendre there of someone who comes from a community that hasn't been represented by either party well enough. i have often said, i know there are issues about race. i have often said republicans demonize latinos, and the democrats, latinos are invisible to them, and we see that by how little they work to invest in the latino vote for in this last -- or in this last election, the african-american vote. you are right. fast-forward, you see who i've been my whole life, as a young man. you run in a campaign and people put you in a box. and they say, he's a moderate,
even a conservative, it's a noise, frankly. mr. madrid: do you feel a lot of similarity between what was happening in california in 1994 and what is happening nationally now? mr. villaraigosa: without question. california is a bellwether state. what happens in california will ultimately happen in idaho, have said that many, many times. in the 90's and the 80's before that, there's the question that -- there is no question that the immigrant bashing that you see happening today across the country happened 20 some odd years ago before that in the 90's here. it didn't start with donald trump as some people think it started with donald trump in the republican party. i tell people, since the end of the mexican-american war, bashing mexicans and immigrants has been a part of the political fabric of our nation.
that's why i have always fought for a country to be all it has held itself out to be, a country that really is a place where all men and women are created equal, and where they have the same opportunity to a better life, to liberty and freedom and the american dream. mr. madrid: after 1994, you are elected in this environment and become speaker. mr. villaraigosa: majority whip a few weeks after i got elected. that.aker after >> but i want to move now about
10 years after that, when you decide you are going to run for mayor of los angeles. the speakership is ended, you find yourself on the los angeles city council. mr. villaraigosa: city council was after my first run for mayor when i lost. mr. madrid: i'm sorry. mr. villaraigosa: when i decided to run, i was speaker of the assembly, but nobody really knew who that was. like today. most people do not know who speaker pro tem is because of the nature and the way we cover politics, which is a shame. only about 9% of people knew me. about 3% would vote for me. the main candidate i was running against, 77% of the people knew him. about 46% were willing to vote for him on that day. a year and a half later, i beat him in the primary. he had never lost an election. his father had never lost an election. had been elected since the 1940's. his uncle was elected in the
30's. that name was an integrated name here in the state. i remember hearing from latinos, even that not just others, saying, how are you going to get elected? latinos were only about 22% of the vote, they don't vote, we all know that. that was true then, as well. they don't vote in the numbers that everybody else does, how are you going to get elected? because i am everybody's mayor. as i said, i one in the primary and lost in the runoff. the papers at every turn described me as the latino candidate for mayor. i challenged them and i said, i was born here, my mother was born here, my grandpa got here hundred years ago. i say, why are you so touchy about it? you would be making history.
i said, well, there is a gay guy running, he would be making history. there is a jewish guy running, he is making history. a woman is running, she would be making history. why don't you write a piece about making history and quit with the latino mayor? i knew what that was saying to people. it was saying to people i was different. that somehow i was not going to represent everyone. i took umbrage with it and i took it all the way to the publisher. in the runoff, they didn't describe me that way as much as they did in the beginning. i said, give me a shot. let me run based on an angelino who was born here. mr. madrid: do you think democratic candidates running for president are facing that same dynamic? mr. villaraigosa: i think it is different today. mr. madrid: how is it different? mr. villaraigosa: part of the thing about race here particularly with mexicans, they
are not just a big population, they have gone from in the 60's to a minor population, even less percentage of the city than african-americans or asians, to today, where they are the largest, half of the population. there was a lot of trepidation about what it meant. what i tried to tell everybody is what it means is a new generation of people who represent us. when they would always ask about ,e being the first, i would say yeah, i am going to be the first, but get over it, because there will be more after me. mr. madrid: e push you a little bit on that. go ahead. mr. villaraigosa: i lost that election, ran for city council, and then i ran again and beat the person that beat me. eight years later, i talked a
-- the person running for the current mayor actually talked a lot about being latino. while, -- wow, a lot has changed. the acceptance of that, when i was running, it was much different. it was a different dynamic. finally, i lost that first election in no small part because they did what they always do, someone of color in particular if you're breaking the glass ceiling, they will say you are soft on crime. i had voted against the death penalty sometime 79 to 1. the only person. they did a commercial where they showed the vote and it would votes green and 1 red. i voted against the death penalty because i wasn't for it. i don't believe in it. i don't think two wrongs make a right. it doesn't work. i have argued that since i was a kid, at least in college.
mr. madrid: let's talk about that little bit because the democratic primary is still dominated by white voters. andjust in the midwest south, but in california. things have changed. los angeles is not like that. latinos are the largest. mr. villaraigosa: that is what i meant. los angeles is not like that. places in the south and other places around the country still are. mr. madrid: what has changed with the country or the basic understanding of race, at least in the democratic primary, where it is still so overwhelmingly white, but now there is this more leaning into your ethnicity where you have to be not afraid of it. mr. villaraigosa: if you remember obama's campaign, he always made it clear. he was not a black candidate. he wanted to be president of the whole country. mr. madrid: isn't kamala harris saying something a little bit different? mr. villaraigosa: i haven't
followed enough of it. by the way, she had a great launch. probably the best launch of any of the candidates. she has been a friend a long time, a lot of respect for her. but i haven't followed the race to that extent. i will say, it is different. millennials don't see race in the same way their parents and their grandparents do. things have changed. there's the question. and for the better. but do we still have racism? of course we do, and a lot of it. is a candidate of color sometimes in a fight, fighting with one hand? yeah. it is still a place where, you know, you have to be better than. you just do. my mother would always tell us that when we were kids. you have to work harder and be better.
a lot of good people in our country, i love that it has changed as much as it has. but you still see it, in charlottesville, you see it in this reaction against taking down these monuments to hate, slavery and racism, there is still a lot of residue of, you know, 400 years of slavery and discrimination. mr. madrid: so how do you reconcile that with the results of your last run for office? a year ago you run for governor of california, the primary is with the primary is, historically diverse set of candidates in the primary also, the white progressive candidate, gavin newsom wins. ringling with white progressive --
overwhelmingly wins with white progressives. the asian candidate wins the maddeningly in the candidate -- the asiandingly in communities. you win by wide margins and latino districts. mr. villaraigosa: i also won the black vote. mr. madrid: we are not talking about marginal differences. each candidate was winning by very wide margins with people who shared not just their last names, but their race, ethnicity, their heritage with them. what does that say? mr. villaraigosa: i think all three of us, or four of us main democratic candidates, we would here, it were sitting
is disconcerting and concerning that the votes seem to have broken down in tribes. each candidate being supported by their group. since tom mr. madrid: does it trouble you? mr. villaraigosa: of course it does. we have a lot of work to do. to bring people together, what i was always proud of was i was the first since tom bradley to be a coalition builder who understood that if i was going to break this glass ceiling, i had to convey what i always lived, that i wanted to be a leader for everybody and bring us together. people thought i was corny, that's what a mayor does. we speak 120 languages.
27 different countries, we have the largest population outside of the country of origin. i was proud that we were the city where the world comes together, where people come from every corner of the earth, and that i was the leader of that city, and someone who spent as much time, if there was one part of the city i spent the most time in, it was a very small part, watts. i spent more time there than any other city or community and comparable size because they needed me. why? that is where the mayor needed to be. we went 18 months without a homicide since the 1950's because of the work we did in our schools and anti-gang work and community building work with our police department. and i was proud of that. but does it bother me that there is still a lot of identification
race in this country? yeah. we should all be concerned about it, because the hands of time only go forward. we are not going back to the time when most of us were from europe. those things are over. but the days ahead could be even greater, because what we personify, what we represent as a country is a place where it doesn't matter where your father came from, or in my case it doesn't matter if you didn't have a father, or in the world we live in today, that you have two fathers. we strive to be a country that judges us based on the content of our character, but we don't
meet that goal yet, that standard yet. mr. madrid: do you think that the politics of the american left are overemphasizing the identity politics, the differences amongst us that leads to these electoral outcomes? the policy differences between you and gavin newsom and john john chung were not three times different, but each community was voting overwhelmingly for what they perceived as clearly one of their own. is it of that a reaction to what the democratic party is telling us? i don'taraigosa: no, think so. first of all, you know, this notion of identity politics sometimes gets a bad rap. i mean, look, if we want to be all that we hold ourselves out to be, if we want to be that place where we really all are
equal, then we have to acknowledge we are not there yet. and we have to acknowledge that we have a lot of work to do to be a place where opportunity in america is a reality for a broader cross-section of people. so those communities of color have every right to stand up for the notion that we want equality, not just equality under the law, but equality in reality. by the same token, there is a lot of white, working-class people that are not living that dream, either. and excluding them is not a winning formula, but it isn't the society we want, either. we want one where every one of
our kids has a shot at a better life. you know, i often hear, should we be for the white voters because they are the majority, or should we focus more on latinos or african-americans and asians, and native americans, and my response is, why can't we do both? why can't we speak to an economy who is not working for people, particularly people of color? why can't we speak to that more and more, the opportunity in america is becoming elusive? , we were to the oecd in the top one, top three, top five for a long time, today we are 16th in the world, where you start at the bottom and go to the top.
so i think we have to do something about that. and i think we can do both, and we need our politics to be about both. i'm a democrat, i chaired the party convention, unabashedly a progressive, notwithstanding with some of the noises about me. but i do believe what we are striving for is a society where one of us counts, and every one of us is represented. and we are clearly not there yet. mr. madrid: i want to talk about beto o'rourke. mr. villaraigosa: it's funny, when i first heard about him, i wasn't seeing a lot, i don't watch a tv. i read a lot. and i heard he speaks fluent spanish, and his name is beto, and he is from texas, i just , maybe it's a stereotype, but i just thought he is latino.
and over the course of his election, i realized he wasn't. mr. madrid: what does that say? mr. villaraigosa: i will tell you, hey, good for you. that you thought, you are representing the community in the south of texas, many of whom are spanish-speaking, and you thought it important enough out of respect to their community that you learn spanish. what is a good thing. this is the only country, one of the few countries where we don't speak multiple languages. we should be speaking two or three languages. and by the way, when they wrote that article about me being speaker, that i was the first one, i said yes, today we speak english and spanish. why? because they are the fastest-growing community in this state, but in 100 years, asians will be the next speakers -- asians will be. and the next speaker should speak chinese as well.
the fact that he speaks spanish as well as he does is a great thing. no criticism to that. mr. madrid: do you think in some ways beto is becoming the major latino candidate, despite julian castro in some ways? , bill clinton was the first african-american president. mr. villaraigosa: well, if by that you mean this, bill clinton grew up with african-americans, was comfortable with african-americans, and beto o'rourke has grown up with latinos, particularly mexicans, with them, yes but i would not say he is the , first latino, because he is not, and i do not think he would say it either. but he is certainly somebody who is comfortable. a lot of people don't know this, and maybe don't agree because his politics didn't always show it but george bush was very , comfortable with mexicans. anyone that was around him knew that. mr. madrid: some of us worked
for him. mr. villaraigosa: you worked for him. not me. but i thank him for his service. i respect that office. i don't respect the man in the office today. but i do respect the office. mr. madrid: there's been a really remarkable split especially with millennials of , color. gen z's, undergraduates, who really don't have the same homophobia, racism, all of the stuff that so many people particularly, the generations -- the generation before mine. the 1960's wasa:
different. we were the first generation that kind of walked away from a lot of that. there's the question that our kids and our grandkids have taken that further. they don't seem to have some of the junk, for lack of a better word, that we were burdened with. mr. madrid: there also seems to be less of a need to rally around a candidate from your tribe. how do you reconcile both of those? mr. villaraigosa: when i mentioned to you earlier, who i have always tried to be, i'm not a millennial very clearly, i'm 66, i have a millennial that's a grandchild, and a great-grandchild, but there's no question that the society i have always strived to be a part of is one where we don't judge people based on the color of their skin or their ethnic origin or their sexual
preferences or their sex or religion. we judge them based on, you know, who they are and their character, and what they are offering and their ideas. , mr. madrid: do you think we are getting toward the post-racial society? mr. villaraigosa: i think some parts of the country are. but we are going to struggle with that. there's not a whole lot of countries, i mean, you go to japan, you go to china, most places in africa are homogenous. and here, we are not. wars are fought over those things. so yes, we are struggling, really hard with this issue, but we are going to get there. not today, not there yet. but we are going to get there. add to that is why i have so much hope in this generation, because i think they're going to
raise their kids the same way. in a way that questions some of the racial, sexist, homophobic kind of ideologies we grew up with. mr. madrid: we haven't spent much time talking about the republican side of the aisle -- mr. villaraigosa: or the candidates. i know you wanted me to talk about the candidates. mr. madrid: we should jump more into that. but can the republican party come back and have a winning message to a more diverse america? mr. villaraigosa: that is why it is good to be here at sc. some of your history majors. the progressive party at the not thethe-century was democrats. it was the republicans. it was lincoln who led the nation and was willing to fight a civil war over the issue of
slavery. it was not the democrats. even in the 1960's, it was republicans who, with the the civilvoted for rights bill. a lot of people do not know that. and things can change, and i hope they do, too. because what is going on in the republican party today, they've been hijacked by a man who is not really republican or democrat, he is for him. he is, you know, a narcissist, he hasist, i don't think politics, i don't think he really cares about us, -- cares about it, he just wants to win. the fact that they have been hijacked this way is not good for our country. the fact that so few of them
of theirtion a member own party in the white house is not healthy for our country, so i do hope they change. maybe the moderate label came from the other side. i don't want to hit on hate on't want to republicans,. . -- i want to win them over. i want to when the majority of our country over to the notion that the path that obama talked about of creating a more perfect union, that's the path ahead that health care is a right, not , a privilege, everybody ought to have it. the notion that we shouldn't have open borders, it's ridiculous. every country in the world has immigration policies and a border, and they should be erare, particularly in this , but they should be humane.
they should reflect our values. if we want to do something about immigration to the candidates running, we have to invest in the center countries. we wanted to build up europe after world war ii, a devastated europe, we developed the marshall plan. if we want to deal with immigration, you don't put up walls, you build bridges and you make investments in communities that are sending people here in great numbers. the truth is, more mexicans are going back then are coming forward that's the truth. , and yet, we have a person in the white house that calls them rapists, criminals, we have to be smart and be the country that really does reflect our values. so once again, we can be a beacon of hope and light to the rest of the world.
and i think under this administration there is a lot of questioning about whether we are that country. mr. madrid: that's a good point. let me ask one more question and then we will open it up to q&a, if that's ok. it's very early in the democratic primaries, but most of the polling, take it for what it's worth, would suggest some of the front runners, at least men,is point, our white whether it is joe biden, who has or bernien announce, sanders, or beto o'rourke, sometimes you see an elizabeth warren or a kamala harris jump in, do you think there will be a person of color on the democratic ticket? mr. villaraigosa: i do. but again, i don't want to live in a country where we question whether a white man has a right to run for president or any
other office, any more than i want to live in a country where we question a black woman, or a lesbian, or a muslim. i want to live in a country where every one of us have a shot. that is who we are. that is who we have always said we want to be. that is what i want to be. and so i think we should have white candidates, but we should have black and latino and asian and women. every one of us have a right to run assuming you meet the , qualifications of being the right age and a citizen. i don't buy this notion that somehow it is a bad thing to run. you have a latino candidate, a number of women candidates, the most diverse congress we have ever had, mostly on our side of
the aisle, almost exclusively on our side of the aisle. but i would like to see that in the republican party and around the country. i think that is who we want to be. mr. madrid: i'm going to open it up to questions now. you have to hold the mic really close for the camera and some of the audio. we had some question -- we had some questions earlier. we will goa -- we will go ahead and let you handle the questioning. >> hi. mayor villaraigosa, you characterize donald trump as someone that is not a true republican has hijacked and does not represent the gop. many people, however, would actually say donald trump is a symptom of the problem, not the problem itself that he really , does represent the political interest of the republican voting base.
how would you respond to that point of view? mr. villaraigosa: i support that view. they obviously are voting for him. but when you look at traditionally who the republicans have been, here's an example, the party of fiscal conservativism. they just voted for a tax cut in the house and the senate that is sending our deficit and our debt into the stratosphere. usually, what you do when you do tax cuts, you cut something else so that you can pay for it, or you raise money to pay for it, they did not do that. across the board, ronald reagan did the last major immigration bill. he was a republican.
so that is what i mean by he has hijacked the party. are-- our republicans -- republicans supporting him in big numbers? yeah. but i don't think he reflects who they used to say they were. >> you mentioned at the beginning, were both, you were adversaries. i think you probably have a story between the two of you. how did you go from adversaries to people who seem more and more like an have sympathy with each other? because maybe that is a story all of america should know and maybe that is what we need, more people coming together from across the aisle. agreeing with is me more as we are getting older, i think that is what that means. and thanks for the question. my career started in sacramento as mayor villaraigosa was becoming the speaker. i am a republican, working with
republican candidates causes and , issues of until recently, antonio and i actually have a lot of anecdotal stories we can tell about some of the challenges we had in working together, but it was never personal. that is what i understood about then-speaker villaraigosa right away. and we also shared a lot of common beliefs about the poor, or the need to help our fellow man and the least amongst us. we just have very different ways of approaching those solutions. what it comes down to is, i never questioned where his heart was and what his goals were. and as long as i could believe in that, even if i couldn't support him on a lot of policies, i could support him because he was still advancing that broader agenda.
and over the course of years, i think as the parties, in my opinion, as both of the parties started to separate and move towards a more extreme position, i found that there was a lot more we had in common than what we were disagreeing on 20 years ago. so the aspirational brand of talking about working-class people, finding a policy solution and a framework for education reform, to find work for people who weren't going to work in the high-tech economy, finding a place for everybody, it spoke to me. so i worked for him. first time i ever worked for a democrat. and one of the best campaigns i ever did one of the proudest , campaigns i have ever worked on. so that would be my answer. mr. villaraigosa: i think i didn't pay him for three months. [laughter] --k, i am a big lever in --
a big believer in -- when i left the speakership, and my record as you said, certainly the most progressive speaker in the 1990's, put forth a lot of the things that became the foundation for what they have done since then. but i remember leaving the legislature, and democrats and republicans getting up and saying goodbye. and i said, i learned a lot, i started out as the guy who demonized the republicans, i was the democratic firebrand, if you todayand i said, i leave realizing that there are people who i vote with every day, democrats, who i would not invite to my home for dinner, and the republicans who i never vote with, that i would. i learned about people are people, and over time i got to
see that mike was someone who cares and wants to make a difference. and we didn't have to agree on everything. so i asked him to be part of my mayoral campaign. he was part of a team of people that maybe didn't get enough , but certainly someone i have a great deal of respect for. yes? and give your name, please. >> my name is elisa. my question for you is about something you mentioned earlier during the discussion. you mentioned that democrats ignore latinos. and as a young millennial woman, so much of the campaigning that i have seen since 2016, even before, is targeted toward that -- toward saying that democrats are more diverse, pushing for diversity. and i think that leans in, or
contributes to the talk about identity politics. -- toward but my question for you is, do you think the democratic party is really pushing for diversity in representation, or is it using identity politics to get the latino vote as well as a vote of other people of color without really striving to represent them? mr. villaraigosa: i think our party needs to do a better job of representing all of us. i mean, education, we are living mr. villaraigosa: i think our in a time in america where if you go to an urban public school, we basically have two systems of education, one for the rich, even in many places, sorry,dle class, i'm
three, the superrich, and we have been reading in the newspaper about them, and then the poor. the poor are not getting the deserve and , democrats are not speaking out about it. when i became mayor, one out of three schools were failing in this town, one out of three. a 43% graduation rate. i took that on. because i told people, it is not just about being the first, it's to open up the door for the rest. but how are you going to open up that door if 44% of the people are graduating from high school? and latinos, who are 80% of the school district, only 13% have a college degree? and african-americans, who are about 11% of the school district, about 18%. we are not making the numbers we need to make it in and nobody is , challenging that.
and that is the opportunity of what is going on today with people buying entrance into great, and that is, you know, poor people, the kids of the working class, they don't have that. your dad was a teamster, son. i had the honor of meeting him. he worked hard so that you could get into usc. nobody bought your way into this place. and you know, they got rid of affirmative-action. . by the way i was one of the , people that led that fight, i contributed $25,000 and did debates, debated governor wilson at the time on npr. i fought for this notion. i said, hold it. you say everybody should have a , level playing field, but we don't have a level playing field.
field. and i think democrats, including the candidates, ought to be talking about an economy that's not working. and in part, it's not working because our schools are not working for the kids of the working class. and i was conservative in the eyes of some because i challenged that notion. i said, hold it, these people have a right to a great school just like i got. and by the way, the school i had a 25% graduation rate when i left in 1971. when i became mayor in 2005, it had gone from 25% to 36%. really? 25 years later? unacceptable. that's why i say, they are not not justhard enough, for african-americans and asians and latinos, not fighting hard
enough for working-class people trying to make it who want to be a part of that dream. so yeah, i'm going to say it we are invisible. you don't see us fighting hard enough for them. that's why we have to get money out of politics, and citizens united. it is why we, it is good that we are having the debate in both , parties. to they are going so far right they are falling off the cliff of the flat earth they believe in, but on our side, too, we have to have a conversation. we have to remember this, if you want to win, you have to win that middle, too, and you have to speak to a bigger cross-section. that is what i am going to continue to do. we have to speak to a bigger cross-section of america.
not everybody can buy their way into a great university. but everybody ought to have a shot at a great university, and they don't right now. >> time for one more? mr. villaraigosa: my name is nick. you met my dad about 20 years ago, probably. as a young latino democrat here in california, i definitely think that some of the issues that impact most people are not being discussed enough on the state level in sacramento, such as labor and housing, which is -- which are definitely two of the biggest issues affecting the urban area san francisco and los angeles. so my question to you would be,
since this discussion is centered around race, do you think those two issues would be issues that going forward democrats should continue to rather than, as opposed to cultural issues such as marijuana legalization and gun rights, it would be better to try to unite the coalitions of the california democrats through issues that impact more people, like housing and labor? mr. villaraigosa: i think the -- i think, whether it is the issue of legalization of marijuana or the issue of you know, the other issue you mentioned, labor and housing, oh, gun rights, i think gun rights is important. of thehe author
assault-weapons ban trigger , locks, safe storage, banning saturday night specials, buying one gun a month, i did all of that in the legislature, and that became a template for nationally that they built on , since then. i think we could do those things and should do those things. immigration. but you hit it on the head. the biggest reason we are the richest state in the nation, the fifth largest economy in the world with the highest effective poverty rate, and the biggest reason is the cost of housing. and if housing is part of the american dream, guess what? it ought more readily available to more people. so i do think housing and the economy have to be our issues. in fact, in the governor's race i talked a whole lot about this california's, and i .id when i ran for mayor, too
we have got to do a lot more to of the the high effect poverty rate in this country and in this state. so health care, housing, homelessness, making the economy work for more people. training and education. ,hese are critical pillars that yes, democrats ought to be focusing on. it doesn't mean we can focus on those other things, we should, but our priorities have to be bread and butter and kitchen-table issues people really care about. partiesink of both focused on that, more people would be interested in our politics. from bill clinton, so it is not me, but i have always said politics is a business of addition and multiplication, not
division and subtraction. the goal is to bring as many people around a notion of a greater america where everyone has a shot. i want to thank you all here at sc. it is always great to be here and i know you tolerate me even though i am a bruin, i love being here, it is a great university and i thank you and the center for the political future. political past, given the last election, but i am always going to fight for a better future, so thank you very much. mr. madrid: thank you very much for your time. [applause] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2019] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] >> we